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The Lucy Show aired from September 1962 until September 1968 on CBS.

Tackling a series on her own, without ex-husband Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball firmly established herself as the first lady of American television with this long-running series.

When it appeared in the fall of 1962, The Lucy Show cast its star as Lucy Charmichael, a widow with 2 children, Chris and Jerry ( Candy Moore, Jimmy Garrett), living in suburban Danfield, Connecticut, and sharing a home with a divorce friend ( a first for a sitcom), Vivian Bagley ( Vivian Vance, Lucy's co-star from I Love Lucy), and Vivian's son Sherman( Ralph Hart). Occasionally seen during the first season were Lucy and Vivian's neighbor Harry Connors ( Dick Martin) and Lucy's banker , guardian of her husband's trust fund, Mr. Barnsdahl ( Charles Lane). Lucy was living on a meager trust left by her dead husband. Joining the cast in 1963 was Mr. Mooney ( Gale Gordon), Lucy's new banker who took over Mr. Barnsdahl's position at the bank. Both Lucy and Vivian were desperately looking to snag new husbands and Lucy, in an effort to keep busy eventually went to work part-time for Mr. Mooney at the Danfield First National Bank.

Following the third season, the show's format was drastically changed.In September 1965, with daughter Chris having just gone away to college, Lucy moved to San Francisco where she promptly enrolled her son Jerry in a military academy. Coincidentally Mr. Mooney was transferred to the Westland bank in San Francisco and was again handling Lucy's trust fund. Mooney who had been president of the bank in Connecticut, was a vice-president at the bank in San Francisco, which was run by Harrison Cheever (Roy Roberts). A short while later, Mr. Mooney reluctantly hired Lucy as his perminent secretary. Lucy's children Chris and Jerry were no longer in the cast and Vivian Bagley, no longer a series regular appeared only occasionally as a visitor from the East ( Vivian had gotten married). Lucy's new cohort was friend Mary Jane Lewis ( Mary Jane Croft who had also appeared as Lucy Ricardo's friend , Betty Ramsey on I Love Lucy).

In 1968 Lucille Ball sold her studio Desilu to Paramount. Rather than star in a show she didn't own, she canceled the top ranked series which had finished the season ranked #2 and started a new sitcom called Here's Lucy.


It was Desi Arnaz who urged Lucille Ball to return to sitcoms following her interlude on Broadway, in the musical Wildcat where she met and later married Gary Morton ( Lucy and Desi had divorced in 1960 but remained partners at Desilu Productions). Lucy was apprehensive to start a new show without Desi so she had him produce the first few episodes.

Ann Sothern, an old Lucille Ball movie colleague ( they were chorus girls together) and star of Private Secretary and The Ann Sothern Show turned up several times as The Countess, a daffy would be socialite.

William Frawley, the erstwile Fred Mertz returned to the fold one last time in late 1965 in " Lucy and the Countess Have a House Guest" as his final acting appearance. He died in 1966.


Here is Vivian Vance's Obituary from the LA Times

Comedienne Vivian Vance Dies at 66
August 18, 1979

Vivian Vance, the Ethel Mertz of I Love Lucy and one of the most beloved comediennes in television, died Friday at her home in northern California after a long fight against cancer. She was 66.

She costarred with Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and the late William Frawley for seven years (1951-58) in the landmark TV comedy I Love Lucy, the most popular program in television history, and later costarred with Miss Ball and Gale Gordon for six years (1962-68) in a sequel, The Lucy Show, both for CBS. She made her final appearance as Lucy's foil in a 1977 CBS special, The President Visits Lucy.

Though her television image was of a bubble-headed matron consistently led into bizarre situations by her wacky red-headed friend and neighbor Lucy, Miss Vance was a woman of wide-ranging intellectual interests and enthusiasms, whose literary judgement was highly regarded by her husband, publisher John Dodds. She was a tireless worker for mental health and had served on the board of the National Mental Health Assn. and had been active in other philanthropic and civic organizations.

She was born in Cherryvale, Kan., but her family moved to Albuquerque when she was in her teens and she had a lifelong love for New Mexico. She made her home in Santa Fe for many years.

Her flair for dramatics first surfaced in Kansas and, for a time, she studied with William Inge, long before he became a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Her early work with the Albuquerque Little Theater was of such quality that a benefit performance was held to send her to Broadway. However, instead of doing Shakespeare, as she had planned, she wound up in the chorus of the Oscar Hammerstein-Jerome Kern musical, Music in the Air.

Other musicals followed. She understudied Ethel Merman in Anything Goes and she often complained: Just my luck. Ethel Merman never missed a performance for five years! Featured roles on Broadway followed with Ed Wynn in Hooray for What! and with Philip Ober in Kiss the Boys Goodbye. She and Ober were married in 1941 and a decade later celebrated their 10th anniversary by costarring in a play in Santa Fe. They were divorced in 1959.

Miss Vance was featured with Danny Kaye in Let's Face It for 86 weeks on Broadway and left the play to do the comedy Over 21 in North Africa, the first legitimate stage production to play the combat zones of World War II. She was on tour playing Olive Lashbrook in The Voice of the Turtle after the war when a nervous breakdown almost ended her career.

She later said she was advised after treatment to return to the stage in a part she knew. In the summer of 1951, Mel Ferrer had scheduled a production of The Voice of the Turtle at the La Jolla Playhouse and she joined the company. Arnaz and Miss Ball saw her on stage and said to each other: There's our Ethel.

Miss Ball said Friday: I have lost the best friend I ever had. And the world has lost one of the best performers it ever had. I shall miss her terribly.

After her marriage to Dodds in 1961, Miss Vance lived in and around New York and commuted here for The Lucy Show. When its long run ended, she regularly toured in summer theater, regularly appeared on Candid Camera and did television game shows. In recent years, she appeared in a television commercial. She and her husband moved to Belvedere on San Francisco Bay five years ago.

In addition to her husband, Miss Vance leaves four sisters. Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Mental Health Assn. or to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Here's Lucille Ball's Obituary from the LA Times

Lucille Ball Dies; TV's Comic Genius Was 77 : Death Caused by Ruptured Abdominal Aorta as She Appeared to Be Recovering From Surgery
April 27, 1989|ROXANE ARNOLD | Times Staff Writer

Lucille Ball, the leggy showgirl, model and B-grade movie queen whose pumpkin hair and genius for comedy made her an icon of television, died early Wednesday, a week after undergoing emergency heart surgery.

The co-creator and star of "I Love Lucy," a product of TV's Golden Age that continues via syndication to be viewed by millions around the world, was 77 and died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of a ruptured abdominal aorta.

Known simply as "Lucy" to four decades of smitten television fans, she had undergone surgery at Cedars-Sinai on April 18 to replace part of her aorta and aortic valve and had recovered from the 6 1/2-hour operation to a point where she was eating and even walking around her hospital room.

Hospital spokesman Ronald Wise said the rupture occurred in a portion of the aorta, the main heart artery, far from where the operation was performed.

She suffered a complete heart failure at 5 a.m., and 47 minutes of resuscitation efforts proved fruitless, Wise said. "There was nothing to indicate this would happen," Wise said. "The heart itself apparently was not involved in Miss Ball's sudden death."

Since last week's surgery, fans had flooded the hospital with thousands of get-well cards, sent via telegram and even facsimile machine. Hospital officials said it was the largest outpouring they had ever seen.

Miss Ball was a tough-talking woman who had used her stardom and show business savvy to become, with her then-husband, the late Desi Arnaz, head of one of Hollywood's major studios, Desilu.

Despite her business acumen, she remained the unquestioned queen of television comedy. From her star-struck childhood through her struggles as a wisecracking movie actress in the 1930s and '40s to the television career that made her a legend, Miss Ball's life was in the best show business tradition of rags to riches.

Almost humbly, she liked to say she owed her enormous success, not so much to talent, but to a magical combination of guts and good supporting players. Her greatest achievements, she always would add, were not any milestones in her career but ranked somewhere under the birth of her two children, Lucie in 1951 and Desi Jr., two years later.

"I am not funny," Ball told an interviewer for Rolling Stone magazine in 1983. "My writers were funny. My directors were funny. The situations were funny. . . . What I am is brave. I have never been scared. Not when I did movies, certainly not when I was a model and not when I did "I Love Lucy."

It was "I Love Lucy," which premiered on CBS on Oct. 15, 1951, that earned Miss Ball her niche in television history. The 30-minute comedy starred Miss Ball and the Cuban-born Arnaz as the wacky Lucy Ricardo and her conga-playing husband Ricky. The show was a weekly dash into absurdity that boasted the biggest television audience of its time--of almost any time.

Stopped the Nation

In creating the show, Miss Ball and Arnaz--who died in 1986--set a pattern of television that was to be repeated in decades to come. They filmed the programs in front of a live audience and in doing so, invented the popular and financially rewarding rerun.

The show was so popular during the 1950s that it literally stopped the nation every Monday night from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. In fact, nighttime shoppers became so scarce in Chicago that the mammoth Marshall Field department store posted a sign that read: "We Love Lucy, too, so from now on we will be open Thursday night instead of Monday." When presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson interrupted the show once for a political message, he was flooded with angry mail.

Even a charge that Miss Ball was a Communist, made by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, failed to dent her popularity. The charges, based on her registering to vote as a Communist in 1936, were dropped when Miss Ball explained she had done so only to please her ailing grandfather. Millions of sympathetic fans and a pragmatic CBS understood.

A phenomenal 40 million viewers watched the antics each week as Lucy would always try to outwit Ricky. With their best friends and landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, played by veterans William Frawley and Vivian Vance as the perfect foils, the Ricardos found themselves mired in situations that frequently were rowdy and always ridiculous.

A generation of Americans grew to recap their favorite Lucy episodes, plot twist by crazy twist.

There was the time Lucy schemed her way onto Ricky's television show to do a commercial for a vegetable drink with a high alcoholic content and got hilariously tipsy during the many retakes.

Then there was the time she threw in two packages of yeast while baking homemade bread and ended up pinned against the wall of her Manhattan kitchen by a monster loaf.

And there was the time Lucy and Ethel, trying to impress their New York friends with the ultimate souvenir from a trip to Hollywood, pried loose the cement block containing John Wayne's footprints from in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. Of course, the block broke.

Week after week, Lucy would find herself trapped in a vat of laundry starch, locked in a meat freezer, or lost on a subway with a loving cup stuck on her head. Her turmoils permanently positioned her in the hearts of most Americans, including the critics.

"An extraordinary discipline and intuitive understanding of farce give 'I Love Lucy' an engaging lilt," wrote New York Times critic Jack Gould. In its Lucy cover story, Time magazine said: "This is the sort of cheerful rowdiness that has been rare. . . . Lucille submits enthusiastically to being hit with pies; falls over furniture. . . . Tricked out as a ballerina or a Hindu maharani or a toothless hillbilly, she takes her assorted lumps and pratfalls with unflagging zest and good humor."

In a 1981 interview in The Times, even Miss Ball admitted, "I love Lucy."

"There were two key qualities to her," the comedienne said. "She was always in financial trouble--if she wanted a fur collar, a ratty little fur collar, she had to figure out a way to make some extra money to get it. . . . God, that's universal. And she always had a domineering figure over her. . . . Lucy was forever knocking somebody's top hat off."

Miss Ball's personal favorite episodes were filmed when she was pregnant with Desi Jr. An amazing 44 million viewers, 90% of the television audience, gleefully watched on Jan. 19, 1953, when she gave birth on film to the show's little Ricky. To the unabashed delight of a nation, it was the same night she had given birth in real life.

"I was so damned happy--just floating on a cloud--and I think the way I felt came across on the film," she said. "I loved doing all those pregnant shows."

Astoundingly, or so it seems in retrospect, early reviews of Miss Ball's talents gave little hint of what was to come. In fact, when she was a plucky 15-year-old looking for that first break on Broadway, Miss Ball was told by a drama teacher to give up. Luckily, the turquoise-eyed teen-ager ignored the advice.

Born to an electrician father and pianist mother on Aug. 6, 1911, in a suburb of Jamestown, N.Y., Miss Ball had set her sights on stardom almost from the first. By 5, the brown-haired little girl was taking music lessons. Each spring that followed she would head toward New York City, walking until someone found her and returned her to her home.

Leaving school at 15, Miss Ball finally made it to New York and the John Murray Anderson dramatic school. There was a brief stint in a Ziegfeld Follies road show and some short-lived appearances in a handful of Broadway chorus lines.

Changing her name to Diane Belmont ("I always loved the name Diane and I was driving past the Belmont race track, and the names seemed to fit together") she turned to modeling. At various times a dress model and a hat model, Miss Ball, with long legs peeking out the bottom of a oversized cigarette pack, ultimately became a "Chesterfield girl." America grew to know her on billboards, magazine ads and on posters in its drugstore windows.

Then in 1933, she headed to Hollywood. Her curly hair bleached a Jean Harlow platinum, Miss Ball was hired to work for six weeks in the chorus of Samuel Goldwyn's "Roman Scandals." Bit part after bit part stretched her stay to six months and she became a Hollywood fixture, taking second billing in the years that followed to everyone from The Three Stooges and Buster Keaton to Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Along the way, she dyed her hair a fiery red and was given the unofficial title of "Queen of the Bs."

Reviewers noted her "pert presence" and talent for "rubber-faced slapstick clowning." She was described in one newspaper as a "slangy, breezy wisecracking gal with a bebop rhythm to her walk." Said another, "Pretty Lucille Ball . . . was born for the parts Ginger Rogers sweats over."

Playing the ingenue lead in the 1940 musical "Too Many Girls," Miss Ball met rumba singer Arnaz, cast as a Cuban football player. She later told an interviewer, "It was, at least for me, true love from the start."

Exchanging vows seven months later, the pair began what was for the most part a troubled marriage. All but three of their first 11 years of marriage were spent apart. With Arnaz traveling the country with his band and Miss Ball committed to Hollywood sound stages, the pair spent almost $30,000 on telegrams and long-distance telephone calls.

"We would end up talking on the phone--no, fighting on the phone," Miss Ball told interviewers. "You can't have a marriage over the phone. You can't have children over the phone. It became obvious that something had to be done."

What was done to salvage the marriage was "I Love Lucy."

Since CBS was stubbornly opposed to the idea of the heavily accented Arnaz playing the husband, the determined Arnazes created their own Desilu company and took a stage version of their show on the road to gauge public opinion. It was a smash, and television executives reluctantly gave "I Love Lucy" a time slot.

"I wanted our characters to have problems," Miss Ball said of her concept for the show. "I wanted to be an average housewife. A very nosy but very average housewife. And I wanted my husband to love me.

"CBS thought we were out of our minds to want to do it on film."

The episodes were filmed before a live audience by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Karl Freund, famous for his work on such films as "The Good Earth" and Garbo's "Camille." When the Arnazes negotiated to keep the films "to show our kids someday," few in the industry predicted what would happen.

"I remember (someone) saying, 'These films may be worth something someday,' " Miss Ball told The Times. "You should hang onto them. If Desi had that in mind, I never knew it. Maybe he knew he was creating the rerun but he never told me about it. All I knew was I was 40 years old and was having my first baby and I didn't want to do these shows and let them disappear into the air. I felt we could save the films for home movies. . . ."

Instead, in the years since the original 153 "I Love Lucy" episodes were telecast, they have been shown and reshown in virtually every country around the globe, earning an estimated $50 million to $100 million. Miss Ball's face was one of the most recognized on Earth.

But all of it was not enough to save her troubled marriage. To the horror of their television fans, Miss Ball and Arnaz were divorced in 1960.

"He (Arnaz) was like Jekyll and Hyde," she said years later. "He drank and he gambled and he went around with other women. It was always the same: booze and broads."

Breaking with the past, Miss Ball left Hollywood for New York and a starring role in the musical "Wildcat." The 1960 production floundered after only a few performances but during her stay in the East, she met stand-up comedian Gary Morton. They married in 1961.

Meanwhile, Arnaz and Miss Ball had sold their "I Love Lucy" films to CBS for $6 million and she bought her ex-husband's interest in Desilu, becoming in effect, the first woman to head a major studio. It was by then home to 18 shows, including such hits as "The Untouchables" and "The Ann Sothern Show." Friend Bob Hope called her business sense "startling."

"I never wanted to be an executive, but when my marriage to Desi broke up after 19 years, I couldn't just walk away from my obligations and say 'forget it,' " Miss Ball explained. "We were an institution. Life takes guts. If you don't take chances, you'll never bathe again because you might get dirty again."

Husband Morton said Miss Ball was blessed with an "innate business sense."

"When she was running Desilu," he said, "she made decisions affecting the future of the company that often amazed board members, not because they were coming from a woman but because time usually proved her judgment to be correct."

Among the shows Miss Ball tutored to success was her own "The Lucy Show," a series without Arnaz but with the same madcap clowning that kept her fans delighted. Among the guest stars attracted by the madness were Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the most glittering couple of the day.

In 1967, with Desilu churning out a gold mine of televisions hits, "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible" among them, an exhausted Miss Ball decided that she had had enough. Gulf & Western Industries bought the property for a reported $17 million.

In place of Desilu, Miss Ball, along with Morton, launched the much smaller Lucille Ball Productions Inc. and in 1968, began filming "Here's Lucy," a series featuring Desi Jr. and Lucie.

"My life started when my children were born," Miss Ball said at the time. "I couldn't wait to work with them. . . . Even when they moved out of the house, they were still home at the studio. I liked that."

The series aired through 1974. With her children's careers off the launching pad, the comedienne, then 63, decided it was time to retire her legendary character. "The Lucy character is too old to run around like an idiot," she said in explanation.

That same year, she filmed her final motion picture, "Mame," a version of the Broadway musical. Although by now the world's best-known television star, as a movie star Miss Ball again received mixed reviews. Times critic Charles Champlin wrote, "The shame about 'Mame' is that it managed to deny us a Lucy to love."

With those final starring credits to her name, she settled into co-producing shows, making occasional television appearances and accepting one after another of a continual barrage of awards and tributes.

In addition to her 13 Emmy nominations (she won four), Miss Ball was feted in 1976 with a nostalgic television tribute saluting the 25th anniversary of "I Love Lucy." Danny Kaye was among those who gave testimonials during the two hours of reminiscing. "Calling Lucille Ball just a comedienne is like calling Margot Fonteyn just a dancer," Kaye said.

In 1984, when she was named one of seven initial inductees in the Television Hall of Fame, she credited the many "talented and creative people" around her for making her a legend. "I have been absolutely blessed," Miss Ball said.

Role as Bag Lady

The following year she took on one of the most challenging roles of her career: a bag lady in the television movie "Stone Pillow." She was hospitalized for dehydration when it was over, but it was a critical and ratings success.

Her last flirtation with television came with her ill-fated and short-lived 1986 series, "Life With Lucy," in which she again teamed with longtime sidekick Gale Gordon. It was quickly pulled by the network because of abysmal ratings.

Her final public appearance proved to be during the 61st annual Academy Awards ceremony on March 29 when she joined her old friend Hope as a presenter.

She had signed a contract with Putnam to publish her autobiography but died before she could begin work on it.

Tearfully sentimental when it came to her husband and family, she reveled in life as a grandmother and glowed whenever she talked of her children. Their struggles and early failed marriages seemed not to matter. While she always spoke fondly of Arnaz, Miss Ball claimed that she had found the perfect mate in Morton.

"He (Morton) takes care of me like I was his mother," she told an interviewer in 1981. "Gary gives me protection." On a scale of 1 to 10, Miss Ball said, "I rate my marriage to Gary a 12."

But to her countless television fans--from the postwar babies who adored her during the '50s to their children and children's children who roared at her antics through decades of reruns--it was always Lucy and Ricky. More than a quarter-century of marriage to Morton could not erase that. There was always the hilarious image of the redhead and "that Cuban bongo player," as Miss Ball affectionately called him.

Even years after the Lucy shows ended, the comedienne openly admitted to missing the characterization.

"After Lucy ended, I thought, 'I'll live a few more years and then I'll die," she said in 1983. "I didn't plan on living this long. . . . Now I miss her. . . ."

Here is Gale Gordon's Obituary from The New York Times

Gale Gordon, TV Actor, 89; Longtime Foil to Lucille Ball

Published: July 3, 1995

Gale Gordon, a character actor known for his comic fussiness and his television sitcom roles opposite Lucille Ball, died on Friday at the Redwood Terrace Health Center in Escondido, Calif. He was 89.

The cause was cancer, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Gordon was praised by critics for "his nifty slow-burn turns" and for being "always amusing in a state of high dudgeon." One of his later roles was the husband's boss in the series "Hi, Honey, I'm Home" in 1991.

But his heyday was an earlier, classic era when, as Frank Rich once suggested in a review in The New York Times, "the cartoon world of Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon" exemplified "the formulas of the old-time television sitcom."

Mr. Gordon played Miss Ball's masculine foil on television, in some ways the onscreen successor to Desi Arnaz, after the couple divorced in 1960. From 1962 to 1968, Mr. Gordon was a principal performer on "The Lucy Show," weekly on CBS, playing Mr. Mooney, a pompous bank executive, opposite Miss Ball's businesswoman and mother of grown children.

From 1968 to 1974, Mr. Gordon was her blustery boss and brother-in-law on the successor sitcom "Here's Lucy." And in 1986 he performed with Miss Ball in the ABC series "Life With Lucy."

His other television work included a co-starring role in "The Brothers" from 1956 to 1958 and roles in the series "My Favorite Husband" and "Our Miss Brooks" in the 1950's and "Dennis the Menace" in the 1960's.

Early in the 1950's, he had regular parts in seven weekly radio programs, including "Our Miss Brooks," "The Alice Faye-Phil Harris Show," "The Dennis Day Show" and the long-running "Fibber McGee and Molly." In that show he played Mayor LaTrivia, whose wrath always ended in a sputtered "McGee!"

Among the films in which Mr. Gordon appeared are "Here We Go Again" (1942), "A Woman of Distinction" (1950), "Don't Give Up the Ship" (1959), "Visit to a Small Planet" (1960), "Sergeant Deadhead" (1965) and "Speedway 85" (1968).

Mr. Gordon, a native New Yorker, was named Charles T. Aldrich Jr. at birth. His mother was an actress, his father a vaudevillian. He attended schools in New York and England.

His wife, the former Virginia Curley, an actress, died a few weeks ago. He is survived by a sister, Judy Wormser.

Here is Mary Jane Croft's Obituary from Variety
Published on August 31, 1999

Mary Jane Croft Lewis

Mary Jane Croft Lewis, an actress who worked opposite Lucille Ball on the TV series "I Love Lucy," "The Lucy Show" and "Here's Lucy," died Aug. 24 of natural causes at her home in Century City. She was 83.

Lewis played Lucy's neighbor Betty Ramsey on the 1957 season of "I Love Lucy." She went on to portray Mary Jane Lewis, a character with her own name that helped outwit Lucy's boss Gale Gordon on both "The Lucy Show" (1962-68) and "Here's Lucy" (1968-74). She also appeared on Ball's final TV special in 1979.

Lewis first began acting on radio in the late 1930s, working on dramas such as "Lux Radio Theatre," "One Man's Family" and "I Love a Mystery." She was also heard on the radio version of "Ozzie and Harriet."

In the 1950s she entered into TV acting, and from 1956 to 1966, she played Clara Randolph on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet."

Her late husband was Elliott Lewis, a producer of "The Lucy Show" who was also a mystery novelist and an actor. Her only son, Eric Zoller, was killed in the Vietnam War.

Here is Dick Martin's Obituary from The New York Times

Dick Martin, Laugh-In Host, Dies at 86
Published: May 26, 2008

Dick Martin, a veteran nightclub comic who with his partner, Dan Rowan, turned a midseason replacement slot at NBC in 1968 into a hit that redefined what could be done on television, died Saturday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 86 and lived in Malibu, Calif.

The cause was respiratory failure, a family spokesman, Barry Greenberg, said. Mr. Martin had lost one lung to tuberculosis as a teenager, and in recent years he had used an oxygen tank for much of the day.

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, the hyperactive, joke-packed show that Mr. Martin and Mr. Rowan rode to fame, made conventional television variety programs seem instantly pass and the sitcom brand of humor seem too meek for the times.

The show was a collage of one-liners, non sequiturs, sight gags and double-entendres the likes of which prime time had rarely seen, and it proved that viewers were eager for more than sleepily paced plots and polite song-and-dance. Laugh-In quickly vaulted to the top of the television ratings, and it spawned an array of catchphrases: Sock it to me, Here come da judge and Mr. Martin's signature line, You bet your sweet bippy.

People are basically irreverent, Mr. Martin said in 1968, explaining the appeal of the show. They want to see sacred cows kicked over. You can't have Harry Belafonte on your show and not have him sing a song, but we did; we had him climbing out of a bathtub, just because it looked irreverent and silly. If a show hires Robert Goulet, pays him $7,500 or $10,000, they're going to want three songs out of him; we hire Robert Goulet, pay him $210 and drop him through a trap door.

Though Mr. Martin had a respectable career in nightclubs before Laugh-In and enjoyed success as a television director after the show went off the air, his five years on Laugh-In elevated him to a different level of fame. The show won the Emmy Award for outstanding variety or musical series in both 1968 and 1969, and the special guests who dropped by to deliver one-liners included Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Cher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Johnny Carson and, memorably with Sock it to me?, Richard M. Nixon. Mr. Martin and Mr. Rowan, who died in 1987, became international stars; in 1972 they were hosts of a variety show staged before Queen Elizabeth II at the London Palladium.

Thomas Richard Martin was born Jan. 30, 1922, in Battle Creek, Mich. His father, William, was a salesman; his mother, Ethel, a homemaker. In the early 1930s the family moved to Detroit, where Dick's teenage years included the bout with tuberculosis, which would keep him out of the military.

At 20 Mr. Martin, with his older brother, Bob, headed for Los Angeles with hopes of breaking into show business. He worked fitfully as an actor, a comic, and as a writer for radio shows like Duffy's Tavern, but he was plying another trade, bartending, one day in 1952 when the comic Tommy Noonan brought in Dan Rowan, a former car salesman with showbiz aspirations of his own. Mr. Noonan introduced the two, and they quickly found their shtick Rowan the sophisticate, Martin the laid-back lunk. They took their act on the road, inching up the club-circuit pecking order.

It had no real highs or lows, it was just straight-ahead work, Mr. Martin recalled of those early nightclub years in a 2007 interview. I don't think we ever failed. We didn't zoom to stardom, but we always worked.

Some of that work was on the small-time television programs that had sprung up in local markets Every city had a show like that: Coffee With Phil, whatever, Mr. Martin recalled and the duo achieved a comfort level in the medium that proved useful once they became nightclub headliners. National television shows came calling, including Ed Sullivan's, where Rowan & Martin made at least 16 appearances.

Mr. Martin also had a recurring role on The Lucy Show in the early 1960s, playing Lucille Ball's neighbor, Harry Conners. But it was his work with Mr. Rowan that held the big payoff: the two had appeared on Dean Martin's variety show on NBC, and this being the era when stars took the summer off but their shows didn't in 1966 they were asked to be the hosts of The Dean Martin Summer Show for all 12 episodes.

They were so high-rated that NBC said, We want you to do a show for us, Mr. Martin recalled in 2007, and that led to a pilot for Laugh-In, which was broadcast Sept. 9, 1967. The show was well regarded it won an Emmy as the outstanding musical or variety program and when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. began to falter in midseason, Rowan & Martin got their shot at a series. Replacing that spy drama, Laugh-In made its debut on Jan. 22, 1968.

The show, partly the brainchild of the producer George Schlatter (who would later get into a court battle with Mr. Rowan and Mr. Martin over the rights to it), pushed the envelope of topical humor, something The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour had begun doing the year before. Laugh-In, though, was more interested in creating a frenetic pace than in creating controversy. To do so it relied on a cast of young, largely unknown comics like Judy Carne, Henry Gibson and Jo Anne Worley a risky approach that one writer who logged time on the series, Lorne Michaels, would use when he shook up television anew in 1975 with Saturday Night Live. And, just as with the S.N.L. cast, a few Laugh-In alumni went on to impressive careers, most notably Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin.

Laugh-In stayed No. 1 through its first two seasons, garnering 11 Emmy nominations in 1969 for Season 2. The novelty, though, began to wear off, and by 1973 it was no longer on the air. A string of specials in later years revisited the format but without the jolt that the show's first two seasons caused, and a 1969 film featuring Mr. Rowan and Mr. Martin, The Maltese Bippy, was panned. Vincent Canby, in The New York Times, called it a movie that cheapens everything it touches.

Mr. Martin's friend Bob Newhart helped him transition to the director's chair. He directed a number of episodes of the long-running Bob Newhart Show, as well as episodes of shows like Archie Bunker's Place, Family Ties and Mr. Newhart's later series. Mr. Martin also continued to act, playing roles on shows like The Love Boat and Diagnosis Murder, and turned up frequently on game shows and celebrity roasts in the 1970s and 80s. Among his occasional film roles was an appearance in Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver, a 1998 comedy directed by his son, Richard Martin.

In the early Laugh-In years Mr. Martin and Mr. Rowan were as opposite offstage as they seemed to be onstage. Mr. Martin, whose 1957 marriage to Peggy Connelly ended in divorce in the early 1960s, was the swinging bachelor, Mr. Rowan the quiet family man. But in 1971 Mr. Martin married Dolly Read, a former Playmate of the Month who had appeared in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. After divorcing four years later, they remarried in 1978. She survives him, as do Richard Martin and, from his marriage to Ms. Connelly, another son, Cary, as well as one grandchild.

Despite the fame and wealth that Laugh-In brought, Mr. Martin always retained a fondness for the earlier part of his career.

My life has been divided into three parts in the show-business world: nightclubs, television, and then I was a director for 30 years of television shows, he said in a 2006 interview on The O'Reilly Factor. And I think the most fun I ever had was nightclubs. I loved nightclubs.

To read some articles about The Lucy Show go to and and and and and and and and

To watch some clips from The Lucy Show go to

To go to Tim's TV Showcase go to

For an episode guide go to

For The Lucy Lounge go to

For The Gale Gordon Archive go to

To watch The Lucy Show-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

To watch the opening credits go to and
Date: Fri March 10, 2017 � Filesize: 60.8kb, 423.8kbDimensions: 1600 x 1309 �
Keywords: The Lucy Show Cast (Links Updated 5/24/2017)


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